the soils resource & asset in england:


Ensuring soil data is widely accessible, used and understood

The nature and type of soil is fundamental to its sustainable use.  Soils have been described by the former Soil Survey of England and Wales, providing an overview of the national asset as it stands in the form of the National Soil Map (NatMap). 

We aim to work to ensure soil data is as widely and easily accessible, used and understood as possible, as a practical way to ensure future sustainable management of soils and land.

An overview:

  • The soil classification is detailed and needs to be more widely understood 

  • The data is currently owned by Cranfield University. Soilscapes is a simplified version of the national soils map managed by Cranfield Soil & Agrifood Institute and supported by Defra. However, the map lacks detail and the ability to analyse and display detailed soils information, such as soil associations and other standard groups (e.g. the major soil groups and sub-groups).  Soilscapes misses key distinctions between soils, and a more detailed map is only available via lease. A more practical open-access resource for Advisers is needed   

  • The original detailed soils classification, maps and guides need to be freely available on the web. This is potentially a huge educational resource   

  • Importantly, an education package needs to be developed on the application of the soils classification and map   

  • A user-friendly, full interactive version of the map would enable displaying, for example, single soil associations or groups with similar characteristics  

  • Characteristics of each soil group should be described alongside implications for farming and environment: soil wetness class, soil water regime, risk or erosion, risk of compaction, runoff class, need for drainage, organic carbon resource, peat resource and so on   

  • The regional bulletins produced in the 1980s need to be revisited and made more accessible 

  • Soil classification should be the basis of all practical soil assessment used by Advisers    

  • Soil assessment is often focused on texture, rather than understanding the soils type according to the soil classification. As a result, information such as soil water regime is often overlooked by Advisers. A programme needs to be developed on how to assess soil types from first principles, so these can be applied in the field  

  • An education programme on the use of soil survey information should be developed, including training courses on the assessment of soil type, risks and capability; and the development of training material for practitioners on the application of soil survey information

We will update this page as our work in this area progresses.